The Apostle Paul admonishes Christians to "Prove all things; hold fast that which is good." (1 Thessalonians 5:21) In our research on Mormonism, which has stretched out to a period of over twenty years, we have always tried to keep this statement in mind. Many writers have lifted their pens to warn the outside world against Mormonism, but very few books have been effective with the Mormons themselves. Since we were once Mormons and have a deep love and concern for our people, we have tried to produce a work that will be read and appreciated by Mormons who are seeking the truth.
As early as 1965, Wallace Turner, a correspondent for the New York Times, realized the effectiveness of such an approach:
Dr. Thomas F. O'Dea,...insists that the church is in the midst of a crisis. ...in keeping with Dr. O'Dea's theory of the sleeping crisis, one of the most influential apostates of the 1960s has been a young machinist, who with his wife, left the church and now makes a living printing books and documents which contradict official Mormon pronouncements.
His name is Jerald Tanner. His wife, Sandra, is a great-great-granddaughter of Brigham Young. ...They lived in the summer of 1965 in an old house at 1350 S. West Temple Street. ...He and Nathan Eldon Tanner, the high LDS official, are both descended, he thought, from John Tanner, the man who helped Joseph Smith in the 1830s. Both the young man and his wife grew up in the LDS church. He drifted away first and she followed....the three of us sat in the high-ceilinged living room of the old house and discussed the general question of how one feels on leaving the company of the Saints.
"It was a long time before I could admit I didn't believe the Book of Mormon," said Sandra Tanner, dandling Brigham Young's great-great-great grandchild on her knee. "It was weeks after that before I could say it out loud."...
"The Tanners operate as the Modern Microfilm Company. They specialize in copying books and documents that are out of print, or have been suppressed in one way or another, but that bear on the history and doctrine of the LDS church. When I talked with them, they had thirty-one titles for sale....the Tanners have signed individual statements setting out their religious experience. Jerald Tanner wrote that he was born and reared in the Mormon church, but that he was nineteen years old before he heard the Word of Christ preached....He considers himself a Protestant, a believer in Christ and in the doctrines of eternal salvation preached by Protestants. However, he now refuses to accept any of the doctrine that belongs exclusively to the LDS church....
Sandra Tanner's statement shows that she had doubts about her religion, but was generally able to contain them — until "I met Jerald and we began studying the Bible and Mormonism togethcr. As we studied I began to see the contradictions between the Bible and the teachings of the Mormon Church."
As a child she had been taught to admire her ancestor, Brigham Young. This was the point at which Jerald Tanner made his attack on her faith. He did it in Brigham's own words.
"Then Jerald had me read some of Brigham Young's sermons in the Journal of Discourses on Blood Atonement. Mrs. Tanner wrote. "I was shocked! I knew what Brigham Young was saying was wrong but I couldn't reconcile these sermons with the things I had always been taught concerning him. I knew these were not the words of a Prophet of God.
"As I studied I not only found errors in Mormonism, I also began to comprehend there was something wrong in my own life. As I studied God's word I realized I was a sinful hypocrite."
That day as she talked in the living room of the old house across from the ballpark in Salt Lake City, she remembered her first meeting with Jerald Tanner. She was visiting her grandmother.
"I fell in love with him," she said quite simply and without embarrassment. Then she used a typical Mormon analogy to explain what she thinks their present life purpose to be. "What we do is more of a mission, you might say,"...
There also is the demonstration by the Tanners that an apostate from the Mormon church generally takes with him their techniques of indefatigable research and argument that he was taught while in the church's embrace....
With the Tanners the church today finds itself faced by its own techniques of argument and its own words turned back against it.... The campaign is effective, too, and of this there is no doubt" (The Mormon Establishment by Wallace Turner, pages 153-160, 162. Copyright 1966 by Wallace Turner. Reprinted by permission of Houghton Mifflin Company)
The Mormon apologist Hugh Nibley once boasted that "of all churches in the world only this one has not found it necessary to readjust any part of its doctrine in the last hundred years (No Ma'am, That's Not History, page 46). The very title of this book, The Changing World of Mormonism, makes it clear that we do not agree with Dr. Nibley on this matter. In this regard it is interesting to note that even while we were in the process of preparing this book, the Mormon Church made a major revision of its doctrine concerning Blacks (see Chapter 10).